Mistletoe in a Marrickville Gum tree

Mistletoe in a Marrickville Gum tree

I discovered some Mistletoe growing in a Gum tree in Marrickville.  Not knowing much about this plant I did some research & found out that Australia has more than 90 species of Mistletoe.  I also came across some interesting information from ‘The World Today’ on ABC Radio. 

Mistletoe in Australia is always a native plant.  It has a bad reputation for killing trees, 
but Associate Professor David Watson from Charles Sturt University says, “pretty much all of the public’s perceptions about Mistletoe are fundamentally incorrect.”  Mistletoe does not kill trees, nor is it poisonous to people or livestock saying that these are myths. 

In fact, his recent research has found Mistletoe encourages biodiversity.  For 5-years he & another researcher removed all Mistletoe from some farms near Holbrook, near Albury in NSW.  The results were unexpected.

Within three years of taking mistletoe away doing nothing else just removing mistletoe plants from the canopy, we lost more than a third of the woodland dependant bird species.

 So to do one small habitat manipulation & see such a dramatic & almost immediate effect is very strong evidence & shows that not just an indirect effect, mistletoe really does have a direct positive effect on biodiversity.”

He also said that Local Councils usually have a policy of removing Mistletoe, but that this is the wrong thing to do because Mistletoe has such a positive effect on biodiversity.

“….rather than seeing Mistletoe as a problem in & of itself, it’s far better to consider it as an indicator of broader scale ecosystem health.   ….and it will come back.”  See – http://bit.ly/10NUkGf

Little birds like to nest in Mistletoe.  It also produces incredibly nutrient-rich leaf litter, which would be great to use in the garden. 

That it would be great for small birds was the first thing I thought of when I saw the Mistletoe.   All this is something to think about if you have Mistletoe growing in your tree.  It’s likely that others will tell you that you have to remove it because the myths about this plant have been around for a long time, but its presence shows that there is great biodiversity happening in your spot & that the little birds have somewhere to nest.  As evidence, there will likely be lots more birds around.  These are plenty of reasons to keep it.